Personal pilot for billionaire Joe Lewis pleads guilty to insider trading scheme

Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference in New York City, Sept. 22, 2023.

Barry Williams | New York Daily News | Getty Images

A personal pilot for British billionaire investor Joe Lewis pleaded guilty Monday to securities fraud related to the same insider trading scheme that Lewis admitted guilt in a month ago, federal prosecutors in New York said.

The pilot, Patrick O’Connor, on multiple occasions, received material, nonpublic information about companies from Lewis that O’Connor then used to trade in shares of those firms, prosecutors said.

Lewis is the principal owner of the Tavistock Group, a private investment firm, and controlled one or more board of director seats at companies in which he shared nonpublic information with O’Connor that the pilot then traded on, prosecutors said.

Lewis, through a family trust, formerly controlled a majority ownership stake in the English Premier League soccer team Tottenham Hotspur.

“On one occasion, after receiving inside information from Lewis concerning Mirati Therapeutics, O’Connor wrote in a WhatsApp message to a friend that he had ‘talked with Mr. Lewis,’ ‘we will make much more within the next 6 weeks with Mirati,’ and ‘think we have people who know,'” the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday.

British billionaire and Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis exits the United States Courthouse in Manhattan, following his appearance on insider trading charges, in New York City, U.S., July 26, 2023. 

Amr Alfiky | Reuters

“Days later, O’Connor wrote to the same friend to buy Mirati and that the ‘Boss [Lewis] is helping us out and told us to get ASAP,'” the office said. “O’Connor added that “All conversations on app is encrypted so all good. No one can ever see.'”

Lewis later wired $500,000 to O’Connor, which the pilot then used to buy Mirati stock, according to prosecutors.

“On or about October 22, 2019, O’Connor texted his same friend that October 28, 2019, was the ‘big day for MRTX,'” the office said. “O’Connor then added that he thought ‘the Boss has inside info’ and ‘knows the outcome’ because ‘otherwise why would he make us invest.'”

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O’Connor, 67, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud in Manhattan federal court Monday.

The Preston Hollow, New York, resident faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced May 29.

Lewis, 87, pleaded guilty on Jan. 24 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud in the same courthouse.

Lewis’ company, Broad Bay Ltd., on the same day, pleaded guilty in the same proceeding to participating in a scheme to hide his ownership of shares of a pharmaceutical company by making false filings and misleading financial statements.

Broad Bay will pay $50 million in penalties as part of its plea.

Lewis was arrested last summer after prosecutors said he loaned two of his private aircraft pilots $500,000 and encouraged them to buy stock shares in the cancer drug company Mirati Therapeutics in advance of the firm issuing favorable results from a clinical trial.

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